The bright yellow words painted on the building proudly advertise a photography studio, an African music store and a handmade furniture shop.

In reality, though, the store doesn't sell or produce anything. The owners don't even have electricity.

Two months ago, 30-year-old Urbunus Muthini Kitungu gave up his farming job and started what he called his "dream business." Yet these days, he sits in a dark room while a colleague pedals a bicycle to generate enough power to turn a lathe, allowing Kitungu to carve a simple piece of wood.

President Daniel arap Moi promised this village of 3,000 people electricity. There are power lines running through the village, but the money needed to wire homes and businesses keeps disappearing into the pockets of politicians, townspeople said.

"Moi has done nothing for us," said Kitungu, who wouldn't need to use the bicycle wheel if he could plug a motor into an electrical socket. "Actions talk louder than words. And there hasn't been action here in years."

For nearly a quarter-century, Moi has ruled as Kenya's omni-president, the vessel for the hopes, promises and disappointments of Kitungu and his countrymen. The reign of one of Africa's longest-ruling Big Men will come to an end when parliamentary elections are held on Dec. 27 and Moi, 78, steps down.

From rural farming villages to the bars of Nairobi, Kenyans say the end of Moi's rule is the most important turning point in the nation's history.

Widely viewed as a beacon of hope and opportunity in the days after Jomo Kenyatta led the country to independence from Britain in 1963, Kenya has descended into poverty, corruption and crime under Moi. Moi's mansion looks out over the tin roofs of Kibera, Africa's largest urban slum. Crime in the capital is so widespread that the city is nicknamed Nairobbery. Africans who used to flee here from war-torn countries like Sudan and Congo are now afraid to even visit. Kenya ranks as one of the most corrupt nations in the world, according to the watchdog group Transparency International.

"There is hope for Kenya," said Mutahi Ngunyi, a political scientist in Nairobi with Consult Afrika, a private research firm. "But at the moment we are not even at ground zero. We are at absolute zero, which is even lower than ground zero. Kenyans will miss Moi, but we don't need the comedy. We want a professional in government."

A Hollow Legacy

Most Kenyans can't remember a time when Moi was not president. Since he succeeded Kenyatta in 1978, Moi has shaped the nation of 31 million, with his image and name dominating every facet of society. Moi's face is etched on the country's currency. The state-run evening news begins every night by saying, "His Excellency President Daniel arap Moi announced today. . . . " There is a national holiday called Moi Day. Dozens of schools, hospitals, bridges and roads are named after Moi. There is Moi University, Moi Girls' School, Moi International Airport. Every business is required by law to hang his framed photograph.

But Kenyans say Moi's legacy is a hollow one, that aside from his omnipresent image, he leaves behind little more than rampant corruption, crime and a dysfunctional political system that some Kenyans describe as democracy with a dictator.

Janet Ouma, 25, a lawyer sitting in a hip Nairobi coffee house lamenting the state of the country, was born a year before Moi came to power and has known no other leader. "I feel really bitter about it. Everyone does," Ouma said. "I mean, even educated people live in a city where most people don't have electricity. It's painful."

Ouma and others stumble over one another to talk about Moi, throwing out facts about the decline of their country and how many Kenyans, who seldom saw a need to leave during better days, now want to emigrate to Europe or the United States.

The young professionals can quote chapter and verse the economic indicators that showed Singapore and Kenya on equal footing in 1971 and show them starkly disparate now. Today, according to World Bank figures, the average Singaporean makes $19,500 per year while the average Kenyan earns just $350 -- the same wage as when the country became independent.

Sixty percent of Nairobi's 2 million people live in slums, mostly in tiny rooms with no electricity. There is no garbage collection, so rotting food, human waste and shreds of clothing are burned in piles, steps away from where fresh vegetables are sold.

The average slum resident earns the equivalent of $6 a month, according to the U.N. Human Settlements Program. Kenyans blame government mismanagement and corruption for the increasing poverty and resulting crime.

Young and educated people in Nairobi say they can't find jobs because only those with connections to Moi's tribe or those willing to pay hefty bribes can get hired. Those who do find jobs often feel pressure from family members to take bribes to augment their meager wages.

"I used my brain to get where I am today, and I couldn't find work for a year," said Ann Maleyae, 28, who went to Romania to earn her degree rather than pay the bribes required to get into a Kenyan university. "You want to just refuse bribes all the time, and then you don't get anything. My God, we are glad [Moi] is going, although he is leaving in such a sneaky way."

In Africa, coups and mysterious murders are the most common ways that longtime leaders are removed from power. Moi's departure has been carefully managed, indicating that he can still employ the wily machinations that have typified his reign, Kenyan political analysts said. When Moi chose his successor, he bypassed the hierarchy of his ruling Kenya African National Union party and anointed Uhuru Kenyatta, 41, a longtime ally who happens to be the son of the country's independence leader.

But it remains to be seen whether the country will vote for Moi's choice or for the candidate of Kenya's newly united opposition. Many voters see little distinction, since many members of the opposition coalition only recently broke off from Moi's party, known as KANU. Either way, Moi's questionable legacy will remain long after Kitungu and others can legally remove his portrait from their struggling businesses.

'Country of Bribes'

In Mombasa, a bustling port city on the Indian Ocean, Kenyans like to joke that the letters in Moi's name stand for "My Own Interest."

Corruption is so much a part of the culture that last year the most popular song in Kenya was "Country of Bribes." "If you're sick in the hospital or you lose your identity card, to get anything done in Kenya you have to pay a bribe," go the lyrics, written by Eric Wainaina, a 28-year-old pop star and television celebrity.

"It's so bad that my own kids ask me for a bribe of a juice box and money to go to school," Jumaa Kombo, a Mombasa taxi driver, said as his friends laughed even though he said he was being entirely serious. "They learn it from their teachers, who learn it from their principals, who learn it from ministers, who learn it from Moi, and all of the money gets passed around."

Under Moi's leadership, such state services as education, trash collection and road repair have morphed into a sophisticated patronage system, said John Githongo, head of the Kenyan chapter of Transparency International.

Political analysts here say that corruption burgeoned as Moi's popularity evaporated and money became the means for securing loyalty. After 14 years of rule in Kenya's one-party system, Moi bowed to pressure for democratic reforms and ran in his first election in 1992. He carried just 30 percent of the vote -- enough to win, because support for the opposition was split among several parties from the country's dozens of ethnic groups.

The World Bank and other international institutions have withheld hundreds of millions of dollars in loans because of high-level patronage and bribery, much of which is funneled to Moi from family members and friends. Last year, Nairobi City Council officials found that hundreds of "ghost" workers -- many of them distant relatives of Moi or friends with connections -- collected city paychecks but were not officially employed.

"Moi was not concerned with performance," said Ngunyi, the political scientist. "He is concerned with survival. And he rewarded those who helped him survive."

But in Africa, where successful people are expected to share their wealth with their family and tribe, some don't see corruption as harmful -- especially those who benefit from it.

At the Moi Girls' School in Nairobi, teachers praise the president. When it was called Nairobi Girls' School, the institution was made up of several crumbling buildings, 100 students and no books. Now it is a boarding school with 850 students, fresh books and plans to build a recreation center. Pretty purple flowers line the manicured lawn, and students wear new blue uniforms.

The principal is a member of Moi's Kalenjin minority tribe. So are many of the teachers and students.

But Kenya's tumble has been so severe that even the fortunate few -- including Moi -- cannot avoid glimpses of what the leader's personal patronage has left.

The unfinished, bumpy roads that wind like muddy footpaths through major towns are the most visible signs of the rampant misuse of funds. This month, Moi's Range Rover suffered a punctured tire on one of those crude tracks, and the president had to get a lift from a cabinet minister.

Peace and Electricity

Mohamed Soka needs to find a new job. For years, he has sold Moi's pensive-looking photograph to businesses. He used to sell 3,000 a month. Last month he sold two.

"He is really gone," said Soka, who was standing on a street in Mombasa. "It is strange."

Some Kenyans said that despite all of the problems, they will miss the relative stability of the country under Moi. While countries across Africa were ravaged by war, Kenyans were largely spared.

Speaking at a school for handicapped children on Moi Day, the honoree praised Kenya's stability and used it to deflect charges of corruption. "Sometimes when I hear all of the criticism I ask myself, 'Are you tired of peace?' I wish people would go to the neighboring countries and then speak peace," Moi told the crowd.

Analysts said that, in many ways, the spoils system kept some segments of the population from starting a revolution.

"With all this 'sharing of resources,' people live in hope," said Githongo of Transparency International. "So if the second cousin of your uncle's brother has been made an assistant minister of the environment, then you are riding the gravy train and aren't about to overthrow the government. The problem is that it's a cannibalistic system that consumes the state."

On the radio and in the newspapers, there is constant debate over whether Moi should be prosecuted for his crimes. Most say he should be forgiven because he is old and should be venerated as an elder.

"We are so happy that he is leaving that we forgive him," said Ferdinand Watirla, 25, who sells clocks in Mombasa. "We need to move on. He's been in office so long that he's too old to even put in jail."

In Klunduani, the villagers are also focused mostly on a future without Moi.

Several months ago, members of the opposition coalition came and built wells. Before that, women here had to ride bicycles two hours up a hill to the nearest water supply.

"We got a new pipeline," said Kitungu, who is hopeful that his music and photo business will one day thrive. "Now all we need is electricity."

Uhuru Kenyatta, left, the ruling party candidate in December elections, is accompanied by President Daniel arap Moi as he waves to supporters in Nairobi.Supporters of the ruling party cheer in Nairobi at the beginning of the campaign to replace Moi, who has been in office for 24 years.